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As a salesman at my local outdoors store, I get paid to convince people to spend what I’ll admit to be absurd amounts of money on outdoor apparel and gear. The $350 Arc’teryx rain shell is not that much better than the $99 dollar Marmot equivalent. I promise. I live and work in a consumerist environment, and I cannot help but be constantly bombarded with sales pitches and advertisements, all telling me to buy more. Whether it’s a newer jacket or a better pair of shoes, I am supposed to want it. My coworkers seem to cash their paychecks only to immediately “upgrade” their old gear, and I have customers who come into the store biannually to buy the latest and greatest item.
As a freshman in high school, I was that customer. I would spend hours studying the specifications of different tents, jackets, and backpacks, trying to find out which items were perfect for me. I truly believed that the extra $100 on a new jacket was what was going to make my next backpacking trip truly perfect and that the pocket design on a new backpack would make or brake my next climbing trip. I was the definition of a “gear-junkie” and likely would have spiraled down a path of excessive spending resulting in a basement full of unused gear if it wasn’t for an unlikely hero, my high school Latin teacher.
Mr. Rau is a legend. I heard rumors throughout all of middle school that he was the most scholarly Latin source in the entire southeast, and that every Latin textbook we would read would be written by him. While some of those facts were a little far-fetched, what was not overestimated was his quality as a man and as a teacher. Mr. Rau has the highest character of any man I know. As a student of such a legend, I studied Mr. Rau closely. Thus, I noticed when, on the third day of school, he bought a new pair of Keen hiking shoes. I was not impressed. I didn’t appreciate their timeless style and was more caught up in the fact that they were 6 ounces heavier than a comparable Solamon model.
It has been four years, and I have never seen Mr. Rau wear another pair of shoes. In the same time span that has seen me go through at least eight, Mr. Rau’s Keens have held fast. Mr. Rau has his priorities in the right order. Life isn’t about how nice your shoes are, or your house, or your car. It’s about having meaningful relationships with the people and doing the best at what you love. This is what Mr. Rau does. Keeping this in mind, I’m okay with the fact that my rain shell is a few years old.
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